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Features

October 1996

A dearth of feeling

by Anne Applebaum

The second in a series on “The future of the European past,”

Venice has the Piazza San Marco, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and now Prague has the Charles Bridge: wide and pedestrianized, blackened with age—and suffused with the spirit of capitalism. There are buskers and hustlers along the bridge, and, every fifteen feet or so, someone is selling very much what one would expect to find for sale in such a postcard-perfect spot. Paintings of appropriately pretty streets are on display, along with bargain jewelry, and “Prague” key chains. Soviet military paraphernalia is for sale, too: caps, badges, belt buckles, and little pins, tin Lenin and Brezhnev images of the sort which Soviet school children and Soviet veterans once wore on their respective uniforms.

It is a familiar sight now, but still an odd one. After all, most of the people buying these things are Americans and West Europeans, people who would be sickened by the thought of wearing a swastika. They see nothi ...

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Anne Applebaum's most recent book, Gulag: A History, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.


more from this author

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 October 1996, on page 5

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